School safety hearing gives state lawmakers ideas on improving classroom security

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - State lawmakers listened to testimony Wednesday on ideas to improve school security as six bills waited for possible votes.

People testified for hours Wednesday about those bills and what they think needs to be done to protect your children. The hearing wrapped up shortly after 5:30 p.m., but lawmakers took no votes on any of the bills.

Ideas from the various bills include placing a full-time school resource officer in every school during school hours; placing one SRO for every 500 students; and allowing school staff ti be designated as armed protection officers. Another bill would require monthly active shooter drills in schools. Other bills would designate a school employee to monitor video surveillance full-time and require metal detectors in schools.

Those who testified Wednesday have all agreed so far on making sure there is a school resource officer in every school.

One of the speakers is the school board chairman in Anderson County, where Townville Elementary School is. He says the gunman who targeted that school on Sept. 28, 2016, did so because there was no officer there. The school has since added one.

But the state's chief of law enforcement emphasized officers are so important because there's no way to tell just how many lives in schools may have been saved just from a potential threat noticing an officer's car is there.

"When you're an SRO you know certain things that you deterred from happening, or where it could have went bad or went a whole other way, and if you're boots on the ground and you're actually there every day whatever the number is you don't really care," South Carolina Association of School Resource Officers Vice President Dwayne Robinson said. "You know that you saved that one."

Officers are currently in about half the schools in the state.

SLED' Chief Mark Keel says it could take $60 million for the state to fund the rest if a bill passes to require that. The first year's cost would be $120,000 for one, and after that, it's salary and benefits each year.

House budget writers did not put the funding for that in their version of the budget. One member on this committee said lawmakers need to see about getting that $60 million.

Lawmakers plan to reconvene to vote the bills up or down.

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